The garage wouldn’t lift. The motor was seemingly frozen, shut down from the chilled morning air. But alas, my wife needed to get to work.
We agreed – she’d take my car. I’d take hers. Mine being parked outside of the garage, hers being trapped within. Her work schedule being more rigid, mine being entirely flexible as a solopreneur. But what of our daughter? I needed access to a car to drop her off at daycare.
That way I could, you know, work.
It’s too chilly
This had happened only once before since moving into our home.
And that too occurred on an uncommonly cold morning. In the case of the first time though, the sun quickly came out, thus thawing our garage and allowing the door to lift up with only a slight delay to our regular schedule.
But today? Today it was shut tight. The air was cold and the sun wasn’t holding up its end of the deal.
Coincidentally, since that first experience, we have been working to get a key made for the emergency door release, but it’s been slow going. As in, we didn’t have a workable key this morning. On this, a very cold day.
Knowing what I needed to do today though, I was able to adjust my schedule.
I removed the things that were up and extra and blocked out time for the few important remainders. I simultaneously played with my daughter (and loved it), while completing lower-level tasks that didn’t need as much attention.
Then, around noon, everything was resolved and my day resumed its regular flow.
Now, I may not have as much working time left as I’d like, but I’m making use of this moment right now to write these words and deliver them to you. To make the time that I still have as productive as possible.
Three ways to be a productive solopreneur
As a solopreneur, as someone working for yourself, striving to grow your business, all things start and end with you.
You are the business. And if you don’t do the work, the business won’t move forward. So you must find ways to be productive and get things done even when things go awry or plans don’t come to fruition. Like me with the garage, you need to do your best to utilize whatever time you have.
It may not always be the exact amount you want, but that’s where the following tips become so valuable. Use them to propel your business to new heights.
1. Know the one thing you should do
In any endeavor, there is normally one thing that is more important than the rest. One thing that will push your business forward more than anything else. If you’re an artist, it’s painting. If you’re a salesperson, it’s cold calls.
In my case, it’s writing.
I know that if I can only do one thing in a day, writing comes first. It comes before responding to emails or working on new designs. Forget the 80/20 rule, this is 99/1. Before I do the other 99 things, I need to get my writing done first.
In your business, especially as a solopreneur, ask yourself: What is the one thing I must do each day? Then, make that the priority.
2. Remove the unnecessary
Once you know your one thing to do each day, everything else becomes superfluous. That’s not to say entirely irrelevant, but certainly not a priority. So, with that realization, remove everything else from your to-do list.
Like you’ve suddenly become a minimalist and are throwing your material goods away in bulk, remove the tasks that don’t serve your singular focus.
In my day-to-day, my work list holds only two items:
- Publish a new article
- Post something new on Medium
That’s it. And even the second point regarding Medium is easy. Less than 20 minutes. Which means that all of my working time each day goes towards writing and publishing something valuable.
I may attend an occasional meeting, but in general, those two items make up the bulk of my day.
An organizational aside
In Getting Things Done by David Allen, he mentions having a separate document that holds things that you’ll maybe do in the future. Dubbed a Someday Maybe list, you can put any tasks there that aren’t a good fit for your time right now, but might be ones to consider in the future.
I have such a list for both my business and personal. Each quarter I review the lists to see if there is anything new I should throw into the mix.
3. Show up each day
As a solopreneur, the business is all on you. If you do the work, you move forward. If you don’t, you stay the same or even move back. Don’t let that happen. Instead, develop a habit of consistency.
Most days, Jerry Seinfeld sits down and writes. Even if he doesn’t feel like it. Steven Pressfield does the same. So does James Clear (with his fitness routine). They are consistent. They have a schedule and they follow it. Even when they are tired or don’t want to.
If the clock says work, that’s what they do.
And that may just be the most important takeaway of this entire article. Show up day after day, through high energy or low, alert or fatigue. When you sit down to work, don’t get up until it’s done. It will pay off.
One way to ruin your productivity as a solopreneur
Even if you apply the three tips above perfectly, there is one way to make it all for naught: let others dictate your attention. Let me explain.
I’ve had a lot of jobs over the years.
I’ve pushed carts as Costco, I’ve done sales analytics for a tech company, I’ve built an app startup or two. And out of all those jobs, only one relied on email to get the work done. Meaning that in order to do my actual job, handling email communications was the most important task.
That’s one job out of the seven or eight I’ve had.
Even today, running my blog, QuickBooost, I check email because I want to. When I want to. Not because I have to.
But people don’t always operate this way. They keep Outlook open constantly even though it’s not imperative to their job. They have Slack notifications on. Every text, every Tweet pops up on their screen(s).
If there’s one guaranteed way to ruin your productivity, it’s to let others commandeer your focus.
Counteract the noise
Unless scrolling through Instagram is the one thing you need to do to push your business forward, disable the notifications. Or better yet, remove it from your phone.
Personally, I’ve deleted most of my social media accounts. Plus, besides incoming calls, all notifications are turned off on my phone. Thus allowing me to be present at this moment, writing to you. You don’t have to be that extreme, but I recommend it.
You will be able to avoid many of the distractions that as a solopreneur you don’t have time for.
Moving forward as a productive solopreneur
As a solopreneur, you control your time.
That’s a good thing if you have a productivity system in place. However, it can be detrimental if not. Instead of letting your productivity flounder though, apply the three tips mentioned in this article.
- Determine the most important use of your time;
- Remove everything else (or put them on a Someday Maybe list);
- Show up each day. Don’t get up until the work is done.
- Oh, and whatever you do, don’t let others claim your attention. Turn off your notifications!
Things won’t always go according to plan, but if I can do it with a baby and a trapped car, so can you.
PS: Let me show you how to achieve your goals.